May 2020 saw me decide to take the plunge and form the ABBLed network. It was something that had been swirling around in my head for a while. Lockdown gave me the headspace to ask myself “if not now, then when?” That’s when I just went for it. Having jotted down some ideas, speaking with BAMEed and ISBL and then sounding out a few contacts to see if they’d like to join me on the journey, I found myself in a position of being ready to formally launch The Association of BAME Business Leaders in Education.
I found my dream team
Through networking I formed a great team to work around me. First I started with a core team – 3 others who shared my vision for promoting diversity within the SBM profession. This was Kemi, Nathaniel and Leticia. We started to meet virtually and think about things like a logo, a statement of vision and aims, a company structure etc. Then we agreed to widen the circle and formulate an advisory body. We were very lucky to attract the attention of Helen, Sally, Husham and Sandy – all experienced School Business Professionals with masses of valuable knowledge. Armed with the enthusiasm and passion of the advisory panel we felt set to start making small steps.
Hello, here we are!
In one of our early meetings Nathaniel came up with the idea of a “welcome webinar” and just like that we took the plunge to get out there. I’d already started making a website and had started a Twitter account too but the idea of a webinar was exciting. We set the date, 30 July, and got to work with promoting it. Over the next couple of weeks I put together the webinar structure and practised speaking into my webcam over and over. It was a daunting prospect but people registered their interest on the site and that helped to boost my confidence and allay my public speaking fears. The webinar went really well with all 8 of us contributing on the night. It was our chance to say “hello, here we are!” so we took it.
The calm before the storm
As August kicked in I started to think about where to go next. I was buzzing from the webinar and didn’t want to lose the momentum. My tools for getting organised included diarising my tweeting schedule and blocking out time to update website content. I was conscious that it was the summer holidays and of the fact that all business managers were coming out of the most intense term they’d probably ever had so I wanted to make being part of ABBLed as easy as possible. I scheduled meetings infrequently but it was just enough to keep the ideas flowing and the excitement bubbling at what lay ahead. In some ways, August was the calm before the storm.
Full steam ahead
September came and we started a new school term. One of the first things I did was speak to my Head Teacher about what I’d been doing over the summer and my new commitments. Luckily for me I have an extremely clued up boss and she showed full support for what ABBLed is trying to achieve.
Being back at work meant I had to start planning my time more carefully. The first tip was to keep a calendar of events – meetings, webinars, speaking commitments. This gave me a better idea of when I would be able to commit sufficient time to ABBLed without becoming overwhelmed. For example, I avoid scheduling ABBLed meetings in the week that I have governor meetings after school.
With this in mind we were able to plan a members meeting on Teams with staff from ISBL. This was a great opportunity to speak to members and sound out the direction of ABBLed. In addition to this we started to get requests to join webinar discussions and speak at events. It really felt like we were going full steam ahead with all things ABBLed.
Share the load
Moving into October I made a conscious decision to share the load. I’d surrounded myself with a wonderful team because I knew from the very beginning that I couldn’t do this alone. I have a habit of taking everything on board myself and so I had to recondition myself to let others in. It felt great to be accepting and fulfilling invitations to speak on behalf of ABBLed but it felt even better to watch the others in the team doing the same.
Keep an eye on the bigger picture
I started to feel a bit like a mad professor with loads of ideas buzzing around my head all fighting for prominence. I had so many ideas about what I want to achieve and I’m so excited to get going with them but I needed to stop, take a breath and plan properly.
I’ve never started anything like this network before so I don’t have that experience to draw on however I’m using my everyday tools that I use as a business professional. For me to keep an eye on the bigger picture I’m developing a strategic plan with the core team that we’ll look at as a panel of 8 and carve out how we’ll deliver it. It’s what I do in my day job so why not make use of the skills I’ve developed? Keep an eye on the big picture and break it down into small steps.
We’ve only just begun
It’s amazing to me that ABBLed has passed the 100 day milestone already. It feels as though we’ve done quite a lot with hosting webinars, setting up a website and forum, setting up a bursary fund, taking part in webinars for other organisations and meeting with ISBL. However, in the scheme of things, and taking into account where I’d like ABBLed to be, we’ve only just begun. I’m up for the challenge though and although it seems like a long road ahead, I’m really looking forward to what comes next.